Principles of Professionalism
Adherence to standards of professional responsibility, along with a broad respect for the law, is a hallmark of an enlightened and effective system of justice. The conduct of lawyers and judges should be characterized at all times by professional integrity and personal courtesy in the fullest sense of those terms. Both are indispensable ingredients in the practice of law, and in the orderly administration of justice by our courts.
The following Principles, which focus on the goals of professionalism and civility, are aspirational in nature and are designed to assist and encourage judges and lawyers to meet their professional obligations. The Principles apply to all legal matters, litigated and non-litigated. We encourage all judges and lawyers to make a commitment to these Principles, and to conduct themselves in a manner that preserves the dignity and honor of the judiciary and the legal profession.
A. Lawyer's Relations With Clients
- To a client, a lawyer owes diligence, competence, faithfulness and good judgment, in the pursuit of client objectives.
- Clients must be treated with respect. A lawyer should provide objective advice and strive to represent the client's interests as expeditiously and efficiently as possible. Lines of communication must be kept open and explanations provided for actions taken in the course of representation. Billing practices should be fully explained to a client at the time representation is undertaken.
- Clients should be advised against pursuing a course of action that is without merit, and should avoid tactics that are intended to harass, or drain the financial resources of the opposing party.
- Clients should be advised that professional courtesy, fair tactics, civility, and adherence to the rules and law are compatible with vigorous advocacy and zealous representation.
B. Lawyer's Relations With Other Counsel
- To opposing counsel, a lawyer owes a duty of respect, courtesy and fair dealing, cooperation in all respects not inconsistent with the client's interests, and scrupulous observance of all agreements and mutual understandings.
- A lawyer should respect a colleague's schedule. Agreement should be sought on dates for meetings, conferences, depositions, hearings, trials and other events. A reasonable request for scheduling accommodation, extension of time, or waiver of procedural formalities should not be refused if the interests of a client will not be adversely affected.
- Forms of pleading, discovery, motions or other papers, should not be used as a means of harassment, or for gaining an unfair advantage. The filing of service or motions, pleading or other papers should not be timed so as to unfairly limit another party's opportunity to respond, or harass counsel.
- A lawyer should conduct himself or herself with dignity and fairness and refrain from conduct meant to harass the opposing party. A lawyer should not advance groundless claims, defenses objections, arguments and positions.
C. Lawyer's Relations With the Court
- To the court, a lawyer owes honesty, respect, diligence, candor and punctuality. A lawyer has a duty to act in a manner consistent with the proper functioning of a fair, efficient, and humane system of justice.
- A lawyer must avoid frivolous litigation and non-essential pleading in litigation. Settlement possibilities should be explored at the earliest reasonable date, and agreement should be sought on procedural and discovery matters. Delays not dictated by a competent and justified presentation of a client's claims or defenses should be avoided.
- As an officer of the court, a lawyer should act with complete honesty; show respect for the court by proper demeanor; and act and speak civilly to the judge, court staff and adversaries, with an awareness that all involved are integral parts of the justice system.
- A lawyer should strive to protect the dignity and independence of the judiciary, particularly from unjust criticism and attack.
D. Judge's Relations With Lawyers and Others
- To lawyers, parties, and all participants in the legal process, a judge owes courtesy, patience, respect, diligence, punctuality and fairness.
- A judge must maintain control of proceedings, and has an obligation to ensure that proceedings are conducted in a civil manner. Judges should establish a climate of professionalism that upholds the dignity of the bench and bar. A judge should show respect for the bar by treating lawyers with civility and personal courtesy.
- A judge should ensure that disputes are resolved in a prompt and efficient manner. However, hearings, meetings, conferences and trials should be scheduled with appropriate consideration to the schedules of lawyers, parties and witnesses.
- A judge should remain knowledgeable of the law, rules and procedure, and apply them in a fair and consistent manner that enables all parties an adequate opportunity to present their cases.
Adopted 1997, Revised 2013
THE LAWYER'S PLEDGE
In accepting the honor and responsibility of life in the profession of law, I will strive, as best I can:
The Lawyers Pledge is intended to complement the very brief statutory oath administered to New Jersey lawyers upon entry to the bar. It was adapted by the Commission from a Pledge devised by Professor Karl Llewellyn of the University of Chicago. The Pledge focuses on the core responsibilities and values that have long marked the legal profession - fairness, commitment, loyalty, and integrity. It serves as a reminder to newly admitted lawyers that admission to practice is an honor and privilege that carries with it significant responsibilities not only to clients, but to the public and the justice system.
As the lawyer and writer Scott Turow has noted, a lawyer's job is not always an easy one:
"The lawyer's job in practice is to be on one hand the impassioned representative of his client to the world, and on the other the wise representative to his client of the legal system and the society, explaining and upholding the demands and restrictions the system places on them both."
Lawyers must be able to recognize and deal appropriately with such conflicting demands. The advice contained in the Pledge provides a compass that will help young lawyers maintain an appropriate course during their professional careers. The Pledge has been used by judges at the swearing-in of new lawyers, and each year is administered to the first year class at Rutgers University School of Law-Newark.